Monday, January 02, 2006

Syriana

Over the holiday break, my wife and I had the chance to see Syriana. It was a great movie, done in the style of another of our favorites, Traffic. I would definitely recommend seeing it.

One of the central messages of the movie is that oil-rich emirates should not squander their wealth today on trivial things because their oil will not last forever, and thus, they should position themselves such that their wealth does.

Shortly after seeing the movie, I saw this story. A Saudi emir is going to build a $26 billion resort city. A squanderous waste or a good investment? You be the judge.

8 comments:

Chairman said...

Westy. Is there really an incentive for the rich ruling class in any society to not just let the good times roll (for themselves)? In any society, no matter how poor, there always seems to be a rich, ruling class that does pretty well for itself. I think back to Juarez, Mexico. You see how many of the people lived in a place that was said to be one of the poorest in Mexico. And yet, you saw some huge estates, with nice green lawns and all the rest. There are those who are rich enough to send their children to school at private schools across the border in El Paso. It seems that in every society in the history of man there's that exponential (maybe weibull?) distribution of wealth.
Do you think that should not be the case? If you buy into the argument that there should be a greater social conscience, then you seem to implicitly buy into some form of socialism, otherwise there's no incentive for the wealthy to change. In my mind, the only possible to really overcome that is for the advancement of technology (or more specifically the ability to generate energy) such that everything becomes more or less a commodity.

-Chairman

Westy said...

Do you think that should not be the case? If you buy into the argument that there should be a greater social conscience, then you seem to implicitly buy into some form of socialism

I do not think that should be the case. I do not think a social conscience can be equated with socialism. The charitable donations I have made in the tax year 2005 are not indicative of me hoping for socialism. They're indicative of care for my fellow man. I think there are those that don't have that conscience, but I find it hard to believe that nobody in the Middle East does. In a way, that's what the movie was about. The struggle for power between two brothers with opposing perspectives on exactly this.

Chairman said...

I think that socialism has an ugly implied meaning that I wasn't implying. FDR was a socialist, really. Social Security, WIC, welfare, etc. are all socialist programs. I'm not suggesting that there's no conscience. I'm suggesting that from a big picture perspective, that ends up being the aberration, rather than the rule, and/or ends up being trivial in comparison to the problem. I think that if your contributions are solely for the care of man, without any support for the agenda, then from a long-term perspective, there will likely be a wasted contribution.

If there is not ultimate change in goals and values, then there will not be a change in behavior. A casual glance at the situation suggests that internal changes aren't likely to be wide-sweeping (almost by definition), which leaves either external social forces (a changed social structure)or other environmental forces (technology, is my suggestion) to cause change. Or some combination of these.

Where I think that much of the Christian agenda gets confused is that we believe that we can compartmentalize things. We seem to be getting the message that our personal lives need to be more holistic, taking the cue from the Asian cultures. But this doesn't seem to have taken hold in our views on politics and the everyday. How much of the American Christendom voted Republican for the last federal election? Does that message jive with what you're suggesting with your personal contributions to the poor?

-RG

Westy said...

How much of the American Christendom voted Republican for the last federal election? Does that message jive with what you're suggesting with your personal contributions to the poor?

That's the problem w/ American politics and a 2-party system. You're likely not going to have complete alignment between Truth and a party. You're left picking based on the most important issues left. In the case of the last election, I felt it was abortion due to the millions of lives at stake.

But this doesn't seem to have taken hold in our views...everyday.
And this is the problem. I DO think that our personal ethics should be holistic. There's not room to pick and choose only parts of Truth. The problem usually is in ascertaining what it is.

Oneway said...

Great discussion with interesting thoughts, guys.

>>If you buy into the argument that there should be a greater social conscience, then you seem to implicitly buy into some form of socialism, otherwise there's no incentive for the wealthy to change.<<

Doesn't the greater social conscience provide the incentive for the wealthy to change?

It deserves mentioning that the socialist American programs of the 20th century, such as the New Deal and the War on Poverty, created more problems than they solved. Socialism as public policy is not the answer.

>>If there is not ultimate change in goals and values, then there will not be a change in behavior.<<

This sentence is profound, cutting both into the rich and the poor.

Oneway said...

Also, Westy, I thought you'd be interested in this article that contains a brief review of Syriana. Victor Davis Hanson was unimpressed, to say the least.

Westy said...

Interesting review Mr. Hanson has. While I wouldn't say I agree w/ the political leanings of the filmmaker, I would say it is naive to imagine that there are no corrupt U.S. citizens within the oil trade.

Regardless, he's right, the movie only presents one alternate of reality, which is necessarily a massively simplified version of true reality. But, it's a movie, and I thought a good one. I enjoy good movies even if they're (not so) subtly arguing for a political perspective. I even enjoyed Bowling for Columbine even if I disagreed with Michael Moore's conclusions. It was entertaining I thought.

The same goes for Syriana. Very entertaining and it made me think about the realities at play within the U.S.-Middle East relationship. Maybe some take what the movie casts as truth literally, but there were some of us at least who saw the perspective being offered and made our own judgement anyway, while still enjoying the flick. A movie that makes me think is already halfway to success in my book.

Oneway said...

Entertainment value is a big determining factor for me as well, Westy, in enjoying and critiquing movies. But looking at what Hollywood has pumped out lately, from Syriana, Jarhead, Good Night and Good Luck, the Constant Gardener, the Interpreter, etc., it seems like 95% of the films out there are as fantastical as Battlefield Earth. It would be refresing to have some honesty, which really is possible with fiction. The bare fact that no major movie this year featured Muslim terrorists as the bad guys speaks for itself.